Textbook prices frustrate students

By Gus Bode

Rental program not feasible

Lukas Chudyba has tried everything from using old editions of textbooks to looking for cheaper options on the Internet to try to avoid paying hundreds of dollars for textbooks each semester.

“Most of the time I pay,” said Chudbya, a graduate student from Hawthorn Estates studying Administration of Justice. “Sometimes my parents kick in a couple of bucks here and there.”


Students at public four-year universities spent an average of $853 on textbooks and supplies for the 2004-2005 academic year, which is an increase of almost $200 from the rates five years ago, according to The College Board, a nonprofit association.

“I think the cost for textbooks is criminal,” sociology instructor Catherine Field said.

The Undergraduate Student Government and Faculty Senate discussed a possible textbook rental program last year, USG president Nate Brown said.

“I can tell you it’s going to be a hot topic issue,” Brown said. “Personally, I’m kind of torn.”

The SIUC Faculty Senate, prompted by concerns about textbook prices, formed a committee in October to look into such a program. The committee decided it wouldn’t work.

The Illinois Board of Higher Education reported that a textbook rental service would cost the University $11.3 million to start and $3.75 million a year to maintain.

Randy Johnson, manager of 710 Bookstore, said it would be uncommon for a university the size of SIUC to provide a rental program.


“It will continually resurface, but that is a University decision involving budgets,” Johnson said. “There would need to be an awful lot of research into book rentals.”

He said the 710 Bookstore often bears the brunt of complaints from students. However, the price of the books are mostly determined by the publisher and whether faculty continually use new editions, Johnson said.

Field said textbook rental programs tend to lock teachers into using textbooks that they would want to change or wouldn’t even normally use. She worked at Rend Lake College, which has a rental program, and noticed it didn’t save the students a significant amount of money.

“It seemed like the book fees were still really high,” Field said.

Eastern Illinois University has used textbook rental services since 1985, and finds the service to be a draw for potential students to the university, said Amy Jones, who works for Eastern’s rental service.

“I think a lot of schools are checking into it,” Jones said. “It does save the students money.”

Students at Eastern pay $7.95 per credit hour and are fined for damages if necessary. The faculty must use the textbook they order for either two years or three consecutive semesters before switching.

Brown said one possible solution might be for students to establish a Web site to swap books.

Such a site already exists. University of North Texas students Elliot Hirsch and Eric Hasziakiewicz developed swapsimple.com, where students can trade textbooks with other users. The total cost to trade a book is postage and a $2 fee to keep the Web site running.

Such an option might work for Chudyba, who has previously searched the Internet for books.

“There should be another venue where you can buy them cheaper, especially since I already pay so much for classes,” Chudyba said.

Reporter Laura Teegarden can be reached at [email protected]